Nephrologist Coral Parikh, MD, who practices in Armonk as an affiliate with White Plains Physician Associates, talks about the proper way—and amount—to hydrate.
How much water should you drink?
For years, we were told to drink eight glasses of water per day. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been any scientific data to support this claim. About 10 years ago, The National Academies’ Institute of Medicine re-evaluated these recommendations and concluded that our intrinsic thirst mechanism is enough to dictate how much water we should drink on a daily basis.
Is water the best thing for athletes to drink? What about Gatorade and other sports drinks?
Besides water, sodium and chloride are the two most important electrolytes to replace. However, sports drinks, including Gatorade, have remarkably little sodium compared with body losses. Therefore, they are actually very similar to water.
Some say it’s good to eat something salty before working out or playing a sport. Is this true?
There is no scientific data to support this theory. We all lose different amounts of salt in our sweat, and the average diet should be able to replace any losses. Eating salty foods may do nothing more than make an individual thirstier.
What should school athletes do if their coaches are prodding them to drink, even if they have stomach cramps or don’t feel thirsty?
If the athlete has ensured that they are not thirsty, then rest or time away from the heat may be enough for recovery. There is little data supporting the claim that dehydration contributes to muscle cramping. Generally, cramps are due more to stress and fatigue rather than fluid intake.